Directory Submission Services – too Good to be True?

Although submitting a URL to web directories isn’t as effective as it was during the early days of the web, it is still an option to promote websites.

But it is tedious, mind numbing work to do manually, especially for website owners who don’t really know what to do, and don’t have the time to figure it all out.

You can find website directory submission services that offer to do it all for you. But do they work and is it possible to save 10-20 hours or more trying to do it yourself by paying $25?

It certainly sounds too good to be true, but it is definitely worth taking a closer look. If they are indeed effective, it will be a great find. If they should be avoided, webmasters need to know too.

What’s included in the Package?

Do a quick search and you’ll come across plenty of services offering to submit your site to lists of web directories. Some of them are freelancers, others have dedicated websites and look more professional.

The easiest way to evaluate what’s involved is to take a look at an actual provider.

SubmitEdgeSEO ( has an impressive list of features that are similar to many of the other services:

This all sounds very promising on the surface, but what does it really mean and will it help boost your website’s traffic?

We looked through their website to read up on each of these points:

  1. 100% Manual Submissions – most services push this as a core appeal. We will discuss this in detail below.
  2. Quality Directory List – their FAQ explains that “We will submit your website only to high DA directories that enjoy good reputation” – this doesn’t necessarily mean the listings will be worthwhile. It would be good to see a sample list of the directories but this isn’t normally provided.
  3. Google Compliant Submissions – “We update our strategies regularly to comply with the latest Google algorithm. Our directory submission is Google Penguin and Google Panda friendly.” – this may be sound comforting to the layman, but for SEO practitioners, it doesn’t mean much. Panda was a Google algorithm update from way back in 2011, and there have been plenty since then. So, this seems irrelevant and out of date.
  4. Cost Effective SEO Technique – this is one of those statements that will appeal to buyers, but what really matters is if the technique is truly effective rather than just being cost effective. “When you select our directory submission, you will be required to make just a onetime fee. The links obtained will be permanent one way links but there are no monthly subscriptions or any other form of recurring fee.” – it looks like they’re referring to the fact that it’s a one-time payment rather than a recurring subscription. Almost all cheap links are worthless, so regardless of price or payment structure,  the important thing is to get listings and links that deliver results.
  5. Keyword Ranking Improvement – this is always the goal, but it is highly unlikely that cheap (or cost effective) directory links will have any direct impact on your rankings. “you can select up to ten keywords for each URL or each order.” – again, to the inexperienced buyer, the whole package seems very attractive.
  6. Detailed Reporting – you can download a sample report with information on the directories (with Domain Authority) and categories where your site has been submitted.

In the full explanation of their features, they also mention various relevant SEO related details of the links they build for you such as “permanent, one-way links” and “do follow directories”.

All in all, this example is quite comprehensive and covers all the key points buyers should know.

Manual vs Automated Submissions

Manual submissions tend to have a perceived premium because almost all good backlinks built from quality directories are manually submitted, where the directory’s structure is carefully assessed in order to get a one-way link from a relevant category.

However, that does not mean all manual link submissions are valuable. There’s definitely no point getting 100% manual submissions where cheap labor is used to blindly spam low quality made-for-links directories. It’s how the hand submissions are done and where to, that matters.

Most directory submitting services advertise a manual submission process. This is definitely better than an automated blast to hundreds of sites at once, but it isn’t an automatic guarantee of quality or success.

It is actually a basic requirement rather than anything particularly special.

Getting Listed in Quality Directories

Before diving into some of the red flags to watch out for, it is important to understand the purpose of directory submissions and how they fit into your SEO strategy.

In short, you are trying to create backlinks to your site. You want quality over quantity, and quality links are hard to get (where you will probably have to pay for it).

There are 3 key steps to getting this link/listing:

  1. Find the right category/page within an authoritative directory
  2. Submit your site/URL with an appropriate link/description/anchor text
  3. Verify that the submission has been approved and the listing has gone live

The thing to note about directory submission services is that they deliver what they claim to do – ie. they submit your site to a bunch of directories. Even if it is manually done, all you get is a submission and there is no promise of a link or an approved listing.

This is the essential point that is often overlooked – the goal of submitting to directories is to get a link, but the directory submitters aren’t providing a service that will result in approved listings.

Are Directory Submission Services Worth It?

On average, let’s assume it costs $20 to $30 to be listed in a directory that’s worth getting a listing in. If the directory submission solutions only charge $25 or less for 100 directories, it is just not possible to get any valuable listings.

What you need to realize is that you will be paying for the submission process only. In which case, your site may be stuck in the pending links queue and might never be approved.

Some submitters may claim to only submit your site to auto approve or instant approval directories. This means you will get an automatic listing, but the links will normally have no value as the directories have been majorly spammed, and hence penalized by the search engines.

Directories that automatically approve listings are easy to get into. Without any quality control, they are full of shady and potentially illegal websites, which you don’t want your site to be associated with as it may affect your reputation and hence authority with Google.

Using a submission service to get links in auto-approved directories could also be problematic as you will suddenly get 50 or 100 links pointing to your site. This has potential negative SEO implications because it will alert the search engines that these links have been artificially earned (or bought), which breaks their rules.


Directory submission services all look too good to be true if you assume that you’ll be getting a worthwhile link/listing for each of the submissions.

Once you’re aware of how the whole submission and approval process works, the picture becomes clearer.

You may be tempted to think that even if you get a few good listings from the 100 directories submitted to, it will be worth it. But it is highly unlikely that you’ll get any decent links. Most of the submissions will either result in no approvals or listings with useless links.


This article is part of WebsitePromote’s Guide to using Web Directories for SEO & Website Promotion.


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